Babylon Radio’s weekly column is here to provide you with a quick insight into some of the world’s most pressing issues.
2016 has been riddled with many newsworthy stories. Ranging from ‘Brexit’ to Donald Trump and celebrity deaths to global conflicts, the past year has seen it all. As we draw towards the end of this, at times, traumatic year, the past week has presented us with another string of major events.
The Syrian city of Aleppo has been subjected to a mass evacuation the past week, as rebels and government officials agreed a short-term ceasefire. The bombardment of Aleppo has culminated in the Syrian regime claiming control of the city, with rebel forces succumbing to defeat in the Eastern part of the city.
Europe witnessed another serious terrorist attack. In an incident that had echoes of last July’s violence in Nice, a Tunisian man drove a lorry into a crowded Christmas market in Berlin, leaving twelve people dead and forty-nine injured. Fortunately, Australian authorities were able to avert a similar disaster in Melbourne. Suspected of launching an attack on Christmas day, three men have been arrested by Australian police forces.
Turkey’s fragile relationship with Russia was severely tested this week. In what appears to be an attack motivated by Russia’s involvement in the Syrian conflict, an off-duty Turkish police officer shot and killed a senior Russian diplomat. This tragic episode was contrasted greatly by reports that government forces have forced Boko Haram fighters from a North Eastern stronghold in Nigeria.
At times, happy endings are hard to find. This was not the case in Malta this week, where a hijacking of a plane reached a positive conclusion, with both suspects surrendering control and releasing all passengers unharmed.
Aleppo Has Fallen
Aleppo has been ravaged by violence over the past four years. The Syrian conflict itself has already claimed approximately 450,000 thousand lives. For years, Aleppo has been seen as a crucial city in the fight for overall control of this divided country. With the help of Russian and Turkish authorities, rebel forces and state officials agreed to evacuate all of those who wished to escape the fighting in Eastern Aleppo, resulting in more than 34,000 evacuees. Whilst the fighting is far from over, the army’s capture of Eastern Aleppo will be viewed as a significant victory in its quest for total control.
Christmas Market Attack Leaves 12 Dead
A winter market in Berlin witnessed a devastating attack on Monday. Christmas revellers were suddenly disrupted as a lorry stampeded through locals, tourists and market stalls. The visible destruction of wooden stalls served as an indicator of the carnage experienced by festive-goers. Following a manhunt across Germany, France and Italy, the attacker named as Anis Amri was shot dead by police near Milan on Friday. It is still to be discovered whether Amri was a ‘lone wolf’, or whether his attack was part of a larger, coordinated terrorist cell. Although ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack, further investigations are needed to learn the true extent of Amri’s terroristic connections.
Australian Authorities Foil Christmas Day Attack
Three men suspected of planning a terrorist attack in Melbourne on Christmas day have been detained. Reports have suggested that the terrorist trio were preparing to use weapons and explosives to ensure mass casualties. The main train station, St Paul’s Cathedral and Federation Square were all rumoured to be potential locations for the group’s attack. Police believe that whilst the three men in question may have been inspired by ISIS, there exists no direct link between the men and the terrorist organisation.
Veteran Russian Diplomat Gunned Down by Turkish Officer
Andrei Karlov was brutally gunned down by a Turkish police officer on Monday evening. The Russian ambassador to Turkey was visiting an art exhibition when an off-duty officer shot him eight times. Shouting “don’t forget Aleppo”, in a mixture of Turkish and Arabic, Mert Altintas shot the diplomat before being killed himself in a shootout with police. Altintas’s attack came in the wake of mass protests in Turkey concerning Russia’s involvement in the Syrian conflict. Despite the violent event, both Russian and Turkish officials have affirmed their commitment to maintaining positive relations.
On The Run: Nigerian Army Drives Boko Haram Further Afield
Boko Haram, an insurgent group in the North of Nigeria, have suffered a significant setback in recent weeks. The group were responsible for the highly publicised kidnapping of 276 schoolgirls in 2014, and have carried out countless attacks throughout the country. Yet, following a dedicated campaign, Nigerian army forces have been able to achieve a key victory in Borno state. The group’s previously held base in Sambisa forest has fallen after weeks of fighting. Boko Haram, however, remains active and there remains a long way to go before the insurgents are purged from Nigerian land.
Hijacked Plane Ends with Zero Casualties
In what was a bizarre but ultimately harmless event, two Libyan hijackers seized a plane in Malta. Using fake weapons, the pair took control of the plane mid-air forcing it to land abruptly. The flight, which was meant to fly from Malta to Libya, was eventually grounded at Malta International Airport, Luqa. Strangely, neither of the hijackers made any demands and all 118 people on board were released peacefully. It is still unknown what exactly caused the pair to hijack the plane, but it has been suggested that they are supporters of former Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi, and were using the hijacking as a media ‘stunt’, to promote their new political party. Such reports remain unconfirmed.